Three-time PSM world champion has clinched Countdown to the Championship berth, hoping to add third victory at the Big Go
INDIANAPOLIS, IN September 1, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – A year ago, three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Angelle Sampey competed at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for the first time since 2008. It was a thrilling return for the class standout, but her excitement is now at another level heading into this weekend’s 62nd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Sampey failed to qualify for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship in 2015, struggling to a 14th-place finish.
But this year has been a far different story on her Star Racing/Precision Service Equipment Buell. Sampey has already clinched a spot in the Countdown to the Championship, won her first race since 2007 and is third in points. That means Indy is the start of what Sampey hopes is an electrifying finish to a season that could also include her third Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win.
“I’m so excited to be racing with a chance to win a championship,” said Sampey, whose 42 career victories are the most in NHRA history for a female competitor. “Last year we struggled so much but now we are in the running for a championship and we have a good shot at it. It’s very exciting. Indy is our biggest, most prestigious race, but I want to win so bad all the time, no matter where we race. Three Indy wins would be great and we’re all looking forward to the Countdown as well.”
Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners. For the first time, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be aired live on FOX and FOX Sports 1 (FS1). It also serves as the last race of the 18-race regular season before the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship begins.
Sampey’s spot in the NHRA’s six-race playoff is secure, but a number of talented competitors will be fighting over the final Countdown to the Championship spots in Indy. Only five riders, a list that includes Sampey and points leader Eddie Krawiec, have clinched berths, meaning there could be considerable shuffling at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Steve Johnson is currently in 10th, but Karen Stoffer and Michael Ray are each just five points back while Sampey’s teammate and rookie Cory Reed trails the veteran Johnson by only 29 points.
Scotty Pollacheck and Jim Underdahl are each less than 75 points back of Johnson as well. Others looking to secure berths are Hector Arana, Chip Ellis, Matt Smith and Hector Arana Jr., all of whom are currently in the top 10. Securing the third spot, competing for a second victory in 2016 and doing whatever she can to help Reed get into the top 10 are Sampey’s chief priorities this weekend.
“It’s a team-wide effort trying to get him in,” Sampey said. “Everything is coming together like we need it to. My bike fits me perfectly, and Cory is getting into a groove and his bike is going fast. We’ve got two bikes to test with, try different things, and I think we can start to go even faster.”
That is the hope for Sampey, who will face off with the likes of Krawiec, reigning world champion Andrew Hines and defending event winner Savoie during the Countdown to the Championship. After her struggles a year ago upon returning to the sport, Sampey wasn’t sure she could get back to competing at an elite level.
But the team, led by crew chief Ken Johnson and owner George Bryce, has taken massive steps in 2016 with Sampey riding a new bike. She has qualified No. 1 twice, has only one first-round loss, qualified no worse than sixth, and picked up a victory in Englishtown.
“This has been a really good year and it feels like it did back in the day,” said Sampey, who won three straight world championships from 2000-2002. “It’s a lot of fun and I definitely feel like I made the right decision to return. This year has been so awesome, so fun and I know I did the right thing. It feels really good to do well and hopefully that continues during the Countdown. We just need to keep pushing forward.”
That means this weekend as well and Sampey knows she has to be prepared for the added pressures of the world’s most prestigious drag race.
“It’s so big and so many people come out,” Sampey said. “It’s big-time because of that and there’s always a big crowd in the pits. It’s a tough race mentally because you’re so busy and it makes for a long weekend, but it’s definitely important to separate all that. When it’s time to get on the bike and put on the helmet, you have to focus on what you’re doing and the reason you’re there, which is to win the race.”
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher will try to capture an NHRA-record 10th win at the famed Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Standing in his way is defending event winner Lucas, defending world champion and current points leader Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon, Richie Crampton, Doug Kalitta, Brittany Force, J.R. Todd and Clay Millican. Leah Pritchett and Terry McMillen, who are currently tied for 10th in points, will also be duking it out for the final spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
In Funny Car, Alexis DeJoria, who won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in 2014, will return behind the wheel for the first time since fracturing her pelvis in a crash at Sonoma Raceway in July. She has missed the past two races, but still leads Chad Head and Cruz Pedregon by 87 and 115 points, respectively, for the 10th position. She will have to ward off the likes of points leader Ron Capps, who has five wins this season, teammate and reigning world champion Del Worsham, who won in Brainerd, defending event winner Beckman, four-time Indy winner John Force, Robert Hight, who has claimed three Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals wins, Courtney Force, Tim Wilkerson, two-time world champion Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Enders, who won her first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals a year ago en route to her second straight world championship, has struggled in 2016 but she took a big step in Brainerd with her second semifinal appearance of the season. It bumped her to ninth in points to help solidify her Countdown to the Championship spot, giving her a 49-point lead over eleventh-place Alex Laughlin. The rookie trails Jeg Coughlin by 36 points for the 10th spot. Teammates Jason Line, the current points leader, and Greg Anderson, a six-time Indy winner, both have seven wins in Pro Stock this season, while others to watch include Allen Johnson, Vincent Nobile, Bo Butner, Brainerd winner Drew Skillman, Chris McGaha and Shane Gray. The final from the postponed event in Seattle between Aaron Strong and Nobile will also be completed during the event.
A $100,000 prize and bragging rights will be on the line for qualified drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car as they battle in the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be held on Saturday evening, while the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car is contested Sunday afternoon. The winners in each Traxxas Nitro Shootout will earn $100,000.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series also will look to become winners of the prestigious event during the weekend. The fastest Super Stock cars will challenge for the ultimate bragging rights and a bonus purse during the popular Mopar HEMI Challenge.
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 2:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 5. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be contested Saturday, Sept. 3 with rounds at 4 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car takes place on Sunday, Sept. 4 for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
FOX national broadcast and FS1 will televise coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for the first time in event history. FS1 will air highlights from the event on Sunday, Sept. 4, at noon and 5 p.m. EST. The broadcasts will continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage on Monday, Sept. 5 starting at 11 a.m. EST. The extensive coverage will then continue live on the FOX national broadcast channel at 1 p.m. EST.
Tickets for the world’s most prestigious drag race can be purchased by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE U.S. NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 62nd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the last race in the NHRA Mello Yello Series regular season. At the conclusion of this event, the top 10 drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – will be locked in to begin the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Brownsburg, Ind. From I-465, exit Crawfordsville Road (Hwy. 136). Head west for four miles past downtown Clermont. The facility’s main entrance is on the left, one-half mile past Raceway Road. From I-74 go south on Ronald Reagan Parkway, exit 68 and turn south. Turn east on U.S. 136 and entrance on the track will be on the right.
COURSE: Championship dragstrip; Track elevation is 700 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
POINTS: A special world championship points system is in effect at this event, where drivers in the Mello Yello Series categories will earn points based on a point-and-a-half system (150 points to win). A single racer in each category can earn a maximum of 188 points at this event. All other NHRA Mello Yello Series events offer 100 points to win. Teams also will get 15 points instead of 10 for making a qualifying attempt. Qualifying bonus points will remain at 1-2-3 for the five sessions and the standard 1-8 points will be given for qualifying positions.
WHEN: Wednesday, Aug. 31 through Monday, Sept. 5.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
THURSDAY, Sept. 1 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations
FRIDAY, Sept. 2 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations (featuring Mopar HEMI Challenge)
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 6:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 3 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2 and 5:30 p.m.
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT (Top Fuel) rounds at 4, 5:15 and 8 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 4 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 5:30 p.m.
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT (Funny Car) rounds at 12:30, 3 and 4:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
MONDAY, Sept. 5 – Pre-race ceremonies, 9:45 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 4, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at noon (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 4, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET).
Monday, Sept. 5, FS1 will televise two hours of live finals coverage at 11 a.m. (ET).
Monday, Sept. 5, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS:
Morgan Lucas, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock; Jerry Savoie, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Bob Glidden, PS, 9; Tony Schumacher, TF, 9; Don Garlits, TF, 8; Don Prudhomme, TF/ FC, 7; Greg Anderson, PS, 6; Warren Johnson, PS, 6; Ed McCulloch, FC/TF, 6; Dave Schultz, PSM, 6; Larry Dixon, TF, 4;John Force, FC, 4.
The most historic and prestigious event in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals has been contested annually since 1955. Originally known as “The Nationals” and first held at an abandoned airstrip in Great Bend, Kan., the event made stops at Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma City and Detroit before eventually moving to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. Past winners include “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, an eight-time winner in Top Fuel; Shirley Muldowney, 1982 Top Fuel winner; Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, a seven-time winner and one of a handful of drivers to win the event in both Top Fuel and Funny Car; and Bob Glidden, the legendary Pro Stock driver who dominated the race by advancing to the final round in 13 consecutive seasons from 1977-’89. The Indiana native won the event a record nine times, a mark he shares with current Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher. It is the only major motorsports event to be contested on Labor Day.
The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals is the final of 18 regular season Mello Yello Series races. Following conclusion of this event the top 10 drivers in each Mello Yello Series category will qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs that begin Sept. 16-18 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.… The Traxxas Nitro Shootout will offer $100,000 to the winners in special bonus events for qualified Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers… Tony Schumacher is an 11-time U.S. Nationals finalist in Top Fuel (winning nine)… Schumacher’s first career NHRA start came at the U.S. Nationals in 1996 and the then rookie posted a runner-up finish to Cory McClenathan… John Force, 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Series world champion and winner of a record 143 events, has won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals four times, his last coming in 2002… Four women have earned Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victories, including Shirley Muldowney once in Top Fuel, Ashley Force Hood twice in Funny Car, Alexis DeJoria once in Funny Car and Angelle Sampey twice in Pro Stock Motorcycle… Pro Stock’s Bob Glidden and Top Fuel’s Tony Schumacher are the winningest drivers in the history of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, with nine victories each… Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, Jim Head and Ed McCulloch have won the race in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, while Antron Brown has also won the race in multiple MYDRS classes, Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle… The event also will feature competition in the Lucas Oil Series and the J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, featuring high-horsepower machines that accelerate to more than 250 mph.
WHAT TO WATCH:
The Traxxas Nitro Shootout will offer $100,000 to the winners in special bonus events for qualified Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers… Tony Schumacher is seeking a record 10th Top Fuel victory at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals… A victory by Schumacher would break a tie with Pro Stock’s Bob Glidden for most Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victories… Four-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson is seeking his seventh Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory… Several high-profile drivers are looking for their first victory in the world’s most prestigious drag race, including two-time Indy runner-up Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel, Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, and Jack Beckman in Funny Car, 2012 world champ Allen Johnson in Pro Stock… Drivers in several Mello Yello Series categories who are on the bubble to make it into the top 10 in points will be trying to take advantage of Indy’s point-and-a-half system and secure their berths into the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race postseason playoffs.
In 1958, led by Tom Binford, Frank Dickie, Rodger Ward and Howard Fieber, 15 Indianapolis-area businessmen and racing professionals invested $5,000 each to fund the development of what would become Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. The group purchased a 267-acre farm about seven miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and developed a multipurpose auto racing facility. The original intention in creating Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis was to design a 15-turn, 2.5-mile road course. Nearly as an afterthought, and as an insurance measure against economic problems, the investment group decided to incorporate a quarter-mile drag strip into the long straightaway of the 2.5-mile road course design. Constructed with assistance from the NHRA, the drag strip was the first of the three courses to be completed, with the facility’s first event held on the strip in the fall of 1960. During the 1960 U.S. Nationals in Detroit, a handshake agreement between Binford and NHRA founder Wally Parks promised that the event would move to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. The historic three-year pact was signed and sealed under a tree in Detroit Dragway’s pits, and Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis eventually became the home of NHRA’s biggest annual event. The NHRA purchased the entire facility in 1979. The first major improvement came in 1983 with the construction and dedication of Parks Tower, the four-story drag strip tower. In 1998, new grandstands, suites and a tower complex on the front straightaway were completed at the oval track at a cost of nearly $2.5 million, which included the repaving of the entire oval surface as part of a three-phase facility improvement project. In 2001, NHRA and Lucas Oil Raceway constructed a new drag strip racing surface, replacing the strip with a 660-foot concrete pad and laying new asphalt on the remainder of the track and shutdown area. Prior to the 2003 race, eight new luxury suites were added along the top of the west-side grandstands of the drag strip, giving fans a unique perspective of the action on the famed track. In 2006, new soft barrier walls were added to the oval. In 2007, the track announced its first track entitlement with O’Reilly Auto Parts. In 2011, the track announced a new track entitlement with Lucas Oil Products. The track – formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park – is now known as Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. During the winter of 2008, a new main track office building was constructed near the track entrance.
DRIVER QUICK QUOTES:
Morgan Lucas, defending Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner: “Winning Indy is pretty much all it’s cracked up to be. You hear all of the stories about it, you see everybody do it, you see all of the excitement and when you finally do it, “You did it!” It just all comes together and you feel a sense of pride, you want to put that trophy in a special place from all of the rest. Especially for me, I have all of my family there. All of that time, all the stuff we do, that one win makes it all worthwhile. We had a rough season outside of that one win but you know what, I would trade a bunch of first-round losses for that win any day of the week.”
Jack Beckman, defending Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Funny Car winner: The coolest part about going to a race that you won the previous year is that you might make it onto the cover of the event program. That’s a reminder of being the last person standing at the end of last year’s tough week. Last year was a dream weekend winning the Traxxas Shootout and then taking the Wally home the next day. It was hot, it was nasty and a marathon. There really wasn’t any time to celebrate after winning the Shootout because we had to get up Monday and do it all over again but on a bigger stage racing for a U.S. Nationals trophy. It was as close to a perfect racing weekend a drag racer could have.”
Erica Enders, defending Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Pro Stock winner: “After 25 years of trying, it finally happened. I had been close before. I got down to three cars in Super Comp out of 170 something back in 2000. Then I had one jerked out from underneath me in 2012. We had the field covered three-hundredths and mysteriously some things occurred and we didn’t get it done. But I am so thankful that the good Lord made us wait. There was a reason behind all of that. I didn’t necessarily see it that way at the time. To be able to accomplish such a huge feat with people that really matter to me, that’s what made it that much sweeter. That was a really cool weekend. I got to race my teammate at the time, Drew Skillman, in the finals and he’s from the Indianapolis area so it was just a really great weekend for the entire Elite Motorsports/Elite Performance bunch. My crew chief (Rick Jones) summed it up best when he came down to pick me up, tears in his eyes. We were both pretty emotional, we were all pretty emotional about it, but he said, “For 40 years I’ve been trying to win this race.” So 40 for him, 25 for me, a solid 30 for Richard (Freeman). It was pretty incredible to finally accomplish it.”
Jerry Savoie, defending Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Pro Stock Motorcycle winner: “It’s funny, team White Alligator Racing is based out of the Southeast but Indianapolis always feels like home when September and U.S Nationals roll around. Our team has been in three out of the last four U.S Nationals finals with winning the race in 2015 being one of the highlights in my racing career. We are excited to have the opportunity to return to Indianapolis this year to defend our pro stock motorcycle title but also understand there will be 30 other teams working just as hard or harder to do the same. It seems to always seems to come down to executing or not executing the little things that makes the difference in winning or losing a race. The U.S Nationals will be no different.”
Top Fuel – 3.740 sec. by Shawn Langdon, Sept. ’12; 328.54 mph by Tony Schumacher, Sept. ’14.
Funny Car – 3.936 sec. and 323.74 by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.538 sec. by Jason Line, Sept. ’11; 211.13 mph by Mike Edwards, Sept. ’12.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.815 sec. and 196.76 mph by Andrew Hines, Sept. ’10.
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
BRAINERD, MN — Point standings (top 10) following the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
Top Fuel: 1. Antron Brown, 1,424*; 2. Doug Kalitta, 1,257*; 3. Steve Torrence, 1,216*; 4. Brittany Force, 1,161*; 5. Tony Schumacher, 1,117*; 6. J.R. Todd, 998*; 7. Shawn Langdon, 968*; 8. Richie Crampton, 840*; 9. Clay Millican, 822; 10. (tie) Terry McMillen, 637; Leah Pritchett, 637.
Funny Car: 1. Ron Capps, 1,413**; 2. Courtney Force, 1,198*; 3. Del Worsham, 1,192*; 4. Jack Beckman, 1,146*; 5. Matt Hagan, 1,115*; 6. Robert Hight, 1,040*; 7. John Force, 1,003*; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 999*; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 915*; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 765.
Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 1,761*; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,683*; 3. Bo Butner, 1,207*; 4. Allen Johnson, 1,054*; 5. Vincent Nobile, 1,004*&; 6. Drew Skillman, 953*; 7. Shane Gray, 825; 8. Chris McGaha, 802; 9. Erica Enders, 742; 10. Jeg Coughlin, 729.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 898*; 2. Andrew Hines, 856*; 3. Angelle Sampey, 659*; 4. Jerry Savoie, 651*; 5. LE Tonglet, 522*; 6. Hector Arana, 459; 7. Chip Ellis, 454; 8. Matt Smith, 402; 9. Hector Arana Jr, 386; 10. Steve Johnson, 331.
* Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship
** Clinched No. 1 spot in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship
& Awaiting to complete the Seattle event in Indianapolis
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 23 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association